I am one lucky lady. 8 months ago, I started dating one of the most amazing human beings to ever grace this earth. He is a level-headed, introverted gentleman- I am grade A, regulation crazy. It is an odd, but perfect fit.
Before I met the datemate (as I so affectionately like to call him), I had let my mental illness call the shots in my relationships. I settled for less than I was worth because my anxiety had me convinced that I did not deserve to be happy. I dated men who saw my depression before they saw me, who used my low self-esteem to grow their own egos, who took advantage of the victim mentality that I had internalized. Although not every gent that I dated fit the aforementioned bill, more often than not I found myself in relationships that fed my mental illness rather than help to overcome it.
In my last serious relationship before meeting datemate, I found myself spiraling out of control, caught in the throws of a major depressive episode. I had lost myself in my attempts to be “good enough” for someone that I had placed upon a pedestal- they had lived through pain and come out on the other side okay; maybe I could to. I gave and I gave and I gave of myself until I had nothing else left to give. In the end, I had my heart broken because I had finally given so much that I was a shell of a person. When there was nothing left, he was gone thus throwing me even deeper into the cycle of self-loathing, depression, and unbearable hopelessness. We are both left to blame for this failed relationship, yet I am the only one to blame for what it did to me.
Being in love with someone else when you have a hard time loving yourself is incredibly difficult. I have been so amazingly lucky to find someone who is willing to teach me how to fall in love- both with him and with myself. There are days where I will ask “are you sure you love me?” a dozen times or will obsessively replay conversations in my head, convinced that datemate is going to break up with me over a misplaced word. Fortunately for me, it doesn’t matter how many times I need to ask for reassurance or how many times he has to drive me to McDonalds for a post-anxiety attack Happy Meal. Datemate sees how a mental illness impacts me, but he does not let it define me or our relationship. I am not my depression or anxiety- something he knows well and does a fantastic job of reminding me of.
Beyond building a strong relationship with a foundation of trust, understanding, and patience, we are partners who attempt to push each other to be better people- not just for each other, but for ourselves. He reminds me to take my medication (a fitting job for a pharmacist), always makes me feel beautiful, and gently lets me know when I am letting my anxiety or depression speak for me. I pull him out of his shell, challenge him with new experiences, and always have a stupid pun or one-liner ready to make him smile. Although I have said the 3 most daunting words in the English language to many people, I don’t think I ever truly knew what “I love you” meant until now.
Love will test your patience, challenge you, force you to face the ugliest of things within you, show you how wonderful life can be, build you up and then tear you down. The ups and downs are what make love the best therapy- by learning to love another, I have started to learn how to love myself.
“Do not bring people into your life that weigh you down. Trust your instincts. Good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful.”